Research Projects

Anxiety Projects

The Relationship between Social Anxiety and Intergroup Anxiety

This study will examine Rapee and Heimberg's social anxiety disorder (SAD) theoretical model to incorporate cultural considerations. The objective of the study is to look at the processes that moderate intergroup anxiety for interactions between African Americans and non-Hispanic Caucasian Americans respectively.  Specifically, we will look at the influence of social anxiety symptoms and stereotype confirmation concerns for both groups as well as perceived discrimination for African Americans, and fear of appearing prejudice for non-Hispanic Caucasians on intergroup anxiety.  We will finally look at fear of evaluation and state anxiety as a result of this intergroup anxiety in a conversation setting.

Social Anxiety and Social Media

There is recent evidence that social media usage is associated with elevated social anxiety and that such usage is problematic among socially anxious individuals. This study seeks to evaluate the level of anxiety and avoidance behavior generated from face-to-face interactions compared to that generated by interactions via social media.

The Examination of Cognitive Models of Social Anxiety Disorder

This study examines the unique predictors of a socially anxious response in a social anxiety challenge, using the cognitive models of social anxiety and previous research as reference. The fundamental question this study hopes to elucidate is what is contributing to changes that occur in anxiety ratings from baseline to being informed of a speech task. It also focuses on individuals’ somatic and cognitive responses in social situations, concerns pertaining to both positive and negative evaluation by others, individuals’ perceptions of self as compared to others, self-monitoring, and safety behaviors.

Culture and Anxiety

Internalized Racism and Gendered Colorism Among African Americans: A Study of Perceived Discrimination, Intra-Group Bias, and Psychological Well-Being

Hidden within the commonly discussed notion of racism is discrimination based on skin color, also known as colorism. Colorism is a form of prejudice in which people are treated differently based on societal meanings attached to skin color. The hierarchy used in colorism deems light complexion and Eurocentric features as more valuable and attractive than dark complexion and Afrocentric features. These more favorable features allow lighter-skinned people of color to enjoy considerable “privileges” that are much harder to attain for those with darker skin. While the extant literature is beginning to touch the surface of colorism, very little studies have explored the psychological effects of colorism, specifically outside the scope of racism. That is, colorism research is often studied by looking at minority skin tone discrimination at the hands of European Americans, but not other ethnic minorities. The current research studies intra-group colorism among African Americans to better understand the psychological consequences of these bias attitudes within a single ethnic demographic. 

Expanding a Cultural Resilience Model to Understand Predictors of Quality of Life Outcomes for Black Women 

This study will develop a model to examine the predictive ability of certain risk factors, cultural assets, and traditional assets on quality of life outcomes in Black American women. Measured risk factors include racism, sexism, and gendered racial microaggressions; cultural assets will include spiritual coping, collective coping, and ritual-based coping; and traditional assets of resilience will include social support, family adaptability, family cohesion, and self-efficacy. The model will determine how these various factors impact quality of life outcomes in a varied, unspecified sample. 

Experiences of Racial Discrimination and Emotion Dynamics Among African Americans and Asian Americans

This study elucidates the experiences of racial discrimination among African Americans and Asian Americans. Specifically, it investigates the everyday patterns and fluctuations of negative and positive emotions as they unfold over time in reaction to explicit behavior of humiliation (e.g., racial slurs) and subtle, often unconscious, indignities toward people of color termed “microaggression” (e.g., assumed criminality). It aims to contribute to the current debate about the scientific status of the broader microaggression research program, which has recently been called into questions by scholars. In particular, they have pointed to a neglect in research to attend to the influence of personality factors and the validity of the concept of microaggression. With a few exceptions, most studies in this area have deployed a cross-sectional approach to examine individual differences to determine the outcomes of microaggression. Hence, this study attempts to address these gaps by examining if microaggression could lead to maladaptive patterns of emotion dynamics over time, and the contribution of these states toward psychological distress over and beyond the personality traits of negative emotionality and perceived victimization.


Colorism in the Perception of Personal Attributes

The concept of colorism refers to the discrimination one experiences or perceives as a result of their skin color. While there is evidence that colorism is still an issue for African Americans, there are several issues that have remained unaddressed. This project examines the perception of skin color in relationship to social and psychological outcomes, whether colorism is associated with psychological wellbeing (e.g., positive and negative affect, generic wellbeing, depression), and whether specific aspects of colorism are more or less salient than others. The possible influence of social desirability will be addressed by utilizing an implicit measure of color preference. The study also examines ethnic identity as a potential moderator to the expected results.

Implicit Association Task and Perception of Homosexuality: Differences Between African American and Non-Hispanic Caucasian Homosexual Males

Minority Stress Theory (MST) is one of the leading theories addressing the impact of racial, sexual and gender minorities on psychological and physical health. This theory postulates that gender minority stress represents a specific psychological stress derived from being a racial and sexual minority and experiencing negative life events. While there is evidence that homosexuality and racial ethnicity represent stressors associated with psychological and physical distress, there have been few attempts to address the interaction between the two. In this study we extend the extant literature by examining the association between among ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We specifically evaluate the perception of homosexual males by homosexual males through use of an Implicit Association Task (IAT). We examine whether African American homosexual men would exhibit higher internalized homophobia and perceived racial and sexual stigma, producing higher levels of psychological distress than non-Hispanic Caucasian homosexual men. We test for the hypothesis that African American males could have a less positive perception of homosexual males as measured by the IAT regardless of the ethnicity of the image compared to non-Hispanic Caucasian males. 

Is It Because You’re Black?: A Study of African American Perception of Microaggressions Depending on Aggressor Race

This study will examine variation in the perception of microaggressions when they come from individuals of different racial backgrounds. Historically, most microaggression research has focused on White perpetrators or omits the question of perpetrator race altogether. Using Social Identity Theory, which states that members of an ingroup are favored over outgroup members, we will assess the variation in psychological response to viewing a microaggression coming from individuals who share racial identities with the victim and those who do not. Expanding on previous research involving variation in aggressor race, we will compare responses from three groups: racially matched aggressors, unmatched racial minorities, and White aggressors. This assessment will further microaggression research by providing new insight into who can produce a microaggression. Also, understanding of immediate psychological impact will be assessed.

Responding to Racial Microaggressions

This study explores responses to racial microaggressions. Specifically, it examines responses from targets, or those on the receiving end, of racially microaggressive behavior. Of particular interest is the extent to which different strategies are used in daily life, and their perceived efficacy from the perspective of racial microaggression targets. Implications for mitigating the harmful impact of microaggressions are considered.


COVID-19 and Mental Health

Coping with COVID-19: Predictors and Mediators of Anxiety and Depression During the Pandemic

This study examines the predictors of general state anxiety, health anxiety, and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of particular interest is examining type of coping behavior as a mediator between health anxiety and increased levels of general state anxiety and depression. Moreover, we are investigating the relationship between looming maladaptive cognitive style, intolerance of uncertainty. coping, and affective symptoms (depression and anxiety). Implications include better understanding of factors that impact psychological well-being during a pandemic.

Social Distancing Measures and Mental Health during COVID-19

This study aims to understand how social distancing measures during COVID-19 pandemic may be impacting people’s mental health, specifically whether it is increasing anxiety and depressive symptoms. The investigation evaluates hypotheses regarding the understanding, adherence, and opinions related to social distancing and whether those factors are related to anxiety and depression. Finally, the study investigates the environmental impacts, namely whether being quarantined alone versus with others, affects people differently and the role of social media in terms of emotional connection and fatigue during the pandemic.